Avalanche Forecast published on March 20, 2020 @ 6:30 am
Issued by Clancy Nelson - Flathead Avalanche Center

Whitefish Range
Swan Range
Flathead Range and Glacier National Park

How to read the forecast

Enjoy mostly stable conditions today. Carry rescue gear and go with a good partner. You may find isolated sluffing or stubborn, hard wind slabs. Use safe travel techniques and keep each other in sight. Sliding on firm, crusty surfaces may be a hazard.

1. Low


Above 6500 ft.
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low


5000-6500 ft.
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low


3500-5000 ft.
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
    Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Normal Caution
  • Type ?

Have a good partner and use safe travel techniques to hedge your bets against surprises today. You may find hard wind slabs as you gain elevation, or wet snow on sunny slopes in the afternoon. Ride one at a time and keep your buddies in sight, especially on steeper terrain, unsupported slopes, or in chutes and gullies. Avoiding slopes with terrain traps below is always good practice. Continue to give cornices, and the slopes below them, due caution.

Forecast discussion

The last reports we have of avalanche activity were on St. Patrick’s Day. Sunshine baked soft surface snow and caused it to sluff on steep slopes. Some of those sluffs triggered wind slabs in the northern Flathead Range. That’s where we have seen the bulk of recent avalanches, with a few in the southern Whitefish Range and in the Lake McDonald area. But then again, those are the main areas where observers have been going lately. If you get out anywhere in our forecast area, please let us know what you find.

Northeast wind and sunny days over the past week have left hard surfaces in exposed areas. Southeast through west aspects are covered by sun crusts or old, hard wind slabs. Most middle and upper elevation, northerly slopes were hammered by the wind. Cornices are perched precariously over starting zones on a variety of aspects. Soft, loose, dry snow still remains in sheltered, north facing terrain.

Hard surfaces will likely remain hard today with freezing levels only brushing above 5,000 feet in the late afternoon. The sun will be out for most of the day. IF temperatures are higher than forecast, and IF recent crusts break down, or you find loose snow getting intense sun, then sluffing may be a problem on very steep slopes. You can manage your exposure by sticking to lower slope angles, or shady terrain, later in the day. Cornice fall is more likely during periods of rapid warming. Continue to give the white whales a wide berth.

weather summary

Temperatures rebound from overnight lows in the teens and will be a few degrees warmer than yesterday with lighter winds. The next chance for precipitation comes Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning. It looks like a dry start to next week before cooler, active weather returns.

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Missoula NWS
For 5000 ft. to 7000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Cloud Cover: Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 28 to 35 deg. F. 16 to 20 deg. F. 30 to 38 deg. F.
Wind Direction: West West West
Wind Speed: 9G20 11 9
Snowfall: 0" in. 0" in. 0" in.
Snow Line: 2500' 3500' 3000'

This forecast applies only to backcountry areas outside established ski area boundaries. The forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This forecast expires at midnight on the posted day unless otherwise noted. The information in this forecast is provided by the USDA Forest Service who is solely responsible for its content.

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